Success Story

Antheil Elementary School

Teacher of the Year

Bob Kohut, 3rd Grade, Antheil Elementary School

I was first introduced to The FISH! Philosophy three years ago by our building principal. We watched the FISH! video at our initial faculty meeting of the school year. Many of us immediately recognized FISH! as the opportunity to fully open up our personalities, and, in turn, create and utilize more energy in our relationships with others. . . .

I started trying to think of ways that I could introduce and utilize FISH! with my students. Why not introduce them to FISH! the same way I was introduced, then let the students help me figure out how we would bring FISH! into our classroom? So I watched the FISH! video with my class. We did a brief social studies lesson about Seattle so that the students would be familiar with where FISH! first took shape. (It didn’t hurt that we immediately made some real-life connections then either.) After we watched the video, we discussed each of the four parts of the philosophy. The students seemed to understand FISH! immediately and innately. We had a lively discussion about what each part of the philosophy meant, why it was important and how it could affect the class and the students’ lives.

One of my favorite things that we came up with during the class discussion was to use the board to show the attitudes we’ve chosen each day. Each morning when the students enter the class they put one of four different magnetic fish symbols next to their name on the board. The symbols represent the attitudes: happy, sad, angry or confident. Students are able to change their fish on the board if they change their attitude throughout the day. This has proven to be a valuable and powerful aid in the classroom. The students (and their parents) have told me that if they notice that another student has chosen angry they try to give that student a little more understanding and space. If a student happens to choose angry or sad several days in a row, then we’ll talk about it. And, it’s great on a test date to look at the board and see it filled with “confident” and “happy” fish!—it’s almost always an accurate indication that the students will do well on that test.

Each day the students make two journal entries: writing about something they’ve done to make someone else’s day and also about what someone has done to make their day. I think the most memorable and powerful moment involving our FISH! journals occurred early this school year when one of the quietest girls in my class said that she didn’t have anything to write about because she hadn’t done anything to make anyone’s day. I asked everyone to stop writing, told them about our dilemma, and asked if anyone could share how this girl had made their day. Around the room, six or seven hands shot up—”She held the door for me when my arms were full of books.” “She laughed at my joke.” “She got in the lunch line twice so I didn’t have to stand in line on my crutches.” It was magic as a huge smile spread across her face. Not only had she made each of those students’ days, they had all just made her day.

Often, as we discuss a story we’re reading, I will ask comprehension questions asking the students to identify and describe how a character has chosen their attitude or how they’ve made another character’s day. Not only do the students have to use higher-level thinking but, they also are able to make connections between the text and real-life. . . .

Recently I was awarded the honor of Teacher of the Year for our building and, FISH! was a contributing factor to my receiving that honor. Several students and parents mentioned in their nominating forms that my classroom is fun; the students (and teacher) care about, and are there for each other; and that the students feel confident that they will be successful.

“Our staff really has taken Fish! to heart. The attitude and climate throughout the school is upbeat and positive.”

– Judith MillerSuperintendent, North East School District

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